Mumbai: As part of efforts to provide reasonable and affordable healthcare to COVID-19 patients, some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh have reached an agreement with the private sector, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Amid reports of a likely shortage of healthcare infrastructure, the ministry had on Monday asked states and UTs to proactively engage with private healthcare providers to facilitate enhanced bed availability and critical care health facilities and to ensure fair and transparent charges for services provided.

"Some states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have already taken the initiative.

"They have negotiated and reached an agreement with the private sector on reasonable rates and arrangements to provide critical care for in-patient COVID-19 admissions," the ministry said.

States have also been asked to proactively engage with the private sector health providers and consider pooling in public and private healthcare facilities, as this will help in providing prompt, good quality and reasonable healthcare to COVID-19 patients.

As the virus tally reached 3,43,091 on Tuesday and the death toll rose to 9,900, the ministry also said the testing capacity for detecting COVID-19 is being continuously ramped up and it now has a capacity to test three lakh samples per day.

A network of 907 labs -- including 659 labs in the government sector and 248 in the private sector ---have been created in the country as on date, the ministry said, reiterating that RT-PCR is the gold standard frontline test for diagnosis of COVID-19.

These tests require specialised laboratory facilities and take at least 2-5 hours including the time and effort to transport the sample to these high-end labs. The TRUENAT and CB NAAT being portable can be and are being used in remote areas.

A total of 59,21,069 samples have been tested for COVID-19 so far with 1,54,935 samples being tested in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.

Besides, in order to enhance the testing capacity in Delhi, each of the 11 districts shall now have assigned labs for exclusively testing the samples from the respective districts, the ministry said in the statement.

The samples from each district are being sent to these labs to ensure timely testing and getting the results without any delay. Currently there are 42 labs in Delhi with per day testing capacity of approximately 17,000.

In its endeavour to make testing more affordable and increase the volume of testing without losing on reliability, sensitivity and specificity, the ICMR on Monday issued an advisory recommending the use of point-of-care Rapid Antigen Detection Test.

The Rapid Antigen test may be used in containment zones and hospital settings under strict medical supervision.

The Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection kit takes 15 minutes to show results and, therefore, will help in early detection of the disease. The antigen test can be conducted at the site of sample collection in the healthcare setting within one hour of sample collection.

Domestic manufacturing capacity of antigen test kits in the country currently is around 10 million in a month. In order to facilitate states to easily procure the Rapid Antigen test kits, the Centre is ensuring that the domestic manufactures are onboarded to the Government E-Marketplace (GEM) portal.